Dec 30, 2014

Can't Stop the Music

My brother, who is heterosexual, was a big fan of The Village People (also Barbara Streisand, Liza with a Z, and Olivia Newton-John).  During the winter after Grease, when their "Y.M.C.A." hit #1 on the pop charts, he kept asking me "Why don't you like them?  They're gay, aren't they? Like ABBA?"

That's the problem.  They weren't about being gay, they were about innuendo.

During the 1970s, the old stereotype of the gay man as a mincing, lisping queen received some competition from the stereotype of the Castro Clone: slim, hairy, with a Tom Selleck moustache, a lumberjack shirt, and tight jeans.  The Castro Clone had three passions: disco, drugs, and sex, and he partook of vast quantities of all of them.  So they were pure ids rather than prissy superegos.  It caught on, and even today, students tell me that "Gay men can't control their sex drive" about as often as "Gay men think they're women."

Record producer Jacques Morelli capitalized on the new stereotype by designing the Village People, a mismatched group of Tom of Finland cartoons solicited from the streets of Greenwich Village: The Soldier, The Cop, The Construction Worker, The Cowboy, The Leatherman, and The Indian (wait -- Tom of Finland never drew any Indians).

Only The Indian (Felipe Rose) was gay in real life, and even he gave interviews with teen magazines talking about the kind of girls he liked.

They were all straight pretending to be gay, or rather hinting that they might be gay (except the Indian, who was gay pretending to be straight hinting that he might be gay).

The lyrics to their songs seemed perfectly innocent and uplifting.

"In the Navy": Can't you see we need a hand, come and join your fellow man.
"Y.M.C.A.": They have everything for young men to enjoy, you can hang out with all the boys

But the fun for listeners was in realizing that the lyrics could be read as dirty, feeling marvelously knowledgeable about the nasty, decadent world of the Castro Clone.

I didn't find it fun.

I still went to see the fictionalized account of the rise of the Village People, Can't Stop the Music (1980), because it starred Steve Guttenberg (who starred in The Chicken Chronicles) as record producer Jack Morel, who wears incredibly tight pants as he roller-discos through life.











And athlete Bruce Jenner (now Caitlin Jenner) as Ron White, his business partner and apparently his boyfriend.
















There are ample shirtless and underwear, plus full frontal male but no female nudity, and no heterosexual sex scenes.  But there's a heterosexual love story, all of the Village People are presented as heterosexual, and no gay people appear.

Or rather, everyone is gay.  The fun is in seeing how open they could get without actually having to admit that they are aware that gay people exist.

See also: Culture Club.